Face a Jury

Defendants Can Be Charged Hundreds of Dollars Just to Face a Jury

The Nation, July 29, 2016

A good measure of how highly a government values “public safety” is the amount spent incarcerating people; a good measure of how little it values people is how much it costs an individual to be imprisoned.

In our “punishment culture,” accountability for the convicted is carried out through modern-day debtor’s prisons. So-called “legal financial obligations”—fines and fees to fund jails and courtrooms—have become an invisible ball-and-chain for citizens condemned to eternal financial purgatory.


A brush with the police for pot possession might quickly spiral into a stiff penalty for a missed court date, deepening legal debt, missed work, re-arrest, a longer rap sheet. In daily life, the accompanying stigma layered over indebtedness “perpetuates inequality among African American and Latino men and among high school dropouts in the employment market.” The long-term opportunity cost could include mental-health crisis, forgone voting rights, and chronic recidivism, because people with nothing left to give also have nothing left to lose.


The question of poor individuals’ “debt to society” in the criminal justice infrastructure has exploded amid high-profile police-violence scandals, particularly in Ferguson, Missouri, where the bullet that killed Michael Brown sparked riots and exposed patterns of criminalization that afflict mutually reinforcing social and economic damage. A recent Department of Justice investigation uncovered a system in which officials see black citizens “less as constituents to be protected than as potential offenders and sources of revenue.”


A generation of massive public investment in criminal justice (and simultaneous disinvestment in social programs) has spawned a secondary industry feeding off people’s inability to afford public costs levied on their basic rights.


While society zealously holds the poor to account, the penalties are administered by “street-level bureaucrats with little governmental accountability and oversight,” who can impose arbitrary, racially discriminatory punishments. The accumulation of frequent contact with the criminal justice system, their debt, and the associated court summonses, warrants, and stints of incarceration…create an ongoing nightmare. Access to justice is foreclosed as well, due to prohibitive bail costs and lack of legal representation.


Even due process carries a price tag in states like Washington, where fees for jury trials have risen lately. A 2005 bill set a cost of $150 and $250 for a six-or twelve-person jury, respectively.

The surrounding community bears further hidden costs. The collateral damage of incarceration for families includes costs associated with visiting loved ones and exorbitant phone surcharges, and handsome profits to contractors providing services like prison health care and office operations.


Often the irony of the system is that the “cost recovery” involved in the carceral cycle yields little actual monetary value for crime victims or anyone else. The amount recouped in many cases is largely notional because they’re simply too poor; the whole system is inflated by a sense of vindictive coercion rather than financial prudence.


Capitalism inherently monetizes our bodies and behavior, whether at work, or behind bars.




Правительство США жестко нарушало мои права человека при проведении кампании террора, которая заставила меня покинуть свою родину и получить политическое убежище в СССР. См. книгу «Безмолвный террор — История политических гонений на семью в США» — «Silent Terror: One family’s history of political persecution in the United States» — http://arnoldlockshin.wordpress.com

Правительство США еще нарушает мои права, в течении более 12 лет отказывается от выплаты причитающейся мне пенсии по старости. Властители США воруют мою пенсию!! Всё это — ещё доказательство, что настоящий действующий закон в США — Закон джунглей.

ФСБ — Федеральная служба «безопасности» России — вслед за позорным, предавшим страну предшественником КГБ, выполняет приказы секретного, кровавого хозяина (boss) — американского ЦРУ (CIA). Среди таких «задач» — запретить меня выступать в СМИ и не пропускать отправленных мне комментариев. А это далеко не всё…



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